Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Attack of the Killer Tomato

It was a simple idea. A couple of eggs, and a sliced tomato for breakfast. There was one juicy on-the-vine-product-of-Mexico red orb remaining in the fruit bowl.

Eggs arranged on a plate, I reached for the tomato. Which felt, um, bumpy. Looked at it. It WAS bumpy. Like a nerdy boy before the invention of Clearasil. Scratched the surface, and...oh my!

It was ALIVE!

Sigourney Weaver came to mind immediately.

And then I realized that I had eaten the other three tomatoes from that very same vine. And I'd been feeling a little queasy, off and on. I wondered if an MRI could detect tendrils.

Whoa. What if the problem wasn't just the tomatoes? What if, due to Global Warming, there had been a Cosmic Shift, and Radioactive Energy was now bathing the house?

Or, maybe the microwave was leaking. It was awfully old, and close to the fruit bowl.

I peeled the two grapefruits and the clementine, which were neighbors of the tomato. They looked OK. Surely, if it was Global Warming or a leaking microwave, it would have affected them, too.

So the only possible explanation was Tomato Aliens.

Mexican Tomato Aliens.

This begged the question: To whom do you report Mexican Tomato Aliens? The grocery store where you purchased the tomatoes? The CDC? FDA? The Immigration and Customs Department?

I made a cup of coffee, and ate the eggs (but not the egg yolks, I gave those to the dogs) while I pondered my predicament. If I went to the store with my find, the chain would have to open an investigation. Trace the Tomato Pedigree. Call in all those acronyminous federal agencies. Who would ban the import of tomatoes from Mexican farmers, devastating the economy, and resulting in the closing of that hotel we like in Zihuatanejo. And I'd be accused of harboring a personal grudge against Mexican tomatoes...even though I would have done the same thing if the tomatoes were a product of Guam. (Just FYI and CYA - I like Guam! Shirley's Coffee House is my favorite breakfast place in the whole world! Really!)

A moment of clarity, as I loaded the egg dish into the dishwasher. I couldn't share my discovery. Couldn't risk the destruction of the Mexican economy; even though that would lead to a sharp increase in tomato farming on Guam, which could really use the business.

I had to deal with my Mexican Tomato Aliens alone.

Luckily, a Google search turned up lots of websites with patterns for aluminum foil hats.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Trouble With Book Stores

Is that they have too many books.

Book stores were invented in my lifetime. In my Nancy Drew Days, the only place to get a book was at the library. (Well, except for Nancy Drew Books, which you could find at the Dime Store. Right next to the 45s, and I don't mean guns.) If you wanted a book at the library, you had two choices - the "school library" or the "public library." The same lady worked at both of them. She had a long tweed skirt, a white blouse and a cardigan sweater. If it was warm enough, the cardigan was draped over her Librarian Chair. Otherwise, she was wearing it, usually with a Kleenex (registered trademark) stuffed up one sleeve. She also wore "stockings" that resulted in legs the color of bratwurst. And sensible black shoes with crepe soles that didn't clickclickclick when she walked up and down the aisles with the book trolley.

(I never figured out how the same lady could be at the school library when I left for the day, and at the public library when I arrived there, a half an hour later. Perhaps they were twins.)

If you wanted a book you had to look in the Card Catalog, a very scary configuration of index cards in very long and tenuous drawers that you had to remove from a dresser-like piece of furniture, and you WERE NOT TO PUT THE DRAWER BACK WHEN YOU WERE FINISHED...such an offense could result in losing your Library Card for an entire year. No one ever explained WHY you couldn't put the drawer back. Maybe people put the drawers in the wrong slots, which could cause permanent damage to the Dewey Decimal System? Perhaps there were liability issues around dropping drawers on toes; but liability was not a popular concept at the time. As evidenced by the fact that PE consisted of us shooting arrows on the playground, and climbing ropes to the ceiling of the gym. Of course, we had "spotters" who could alert the authorities if we lost our grip twenty feet up and splatted to the floor. Although the spotter thing was probably overkill. Even a school-age body falling from the rafters would make enough noise to attract attention on impact.

Once you looked in the Card Catalog, you would get a Locator Number; which was, for all intents and purposes, the precursor to GPS technology. The idea was to wander up and down the aisles in the library until you found someone to talk to about the sparkly pink lipstick you bought at the Dime Store and had in your purse right this very moment even though the school didn't allow it and you could be sent home for its possession. And then got in trouble for violating the Library Noise Ordinance (which would certainly go on your Permanent Record.) I digress. The Locator Number was written in white ink on the spine of the book, and involved a bunch of numbers and decimals. It was invented by Dewey. There is a really good book out right now about Dewey the Library Cat. He was a cute orange and white tabby, and he lived in Spencer Iowa. I highly recommend the book, if you haven't read it.

Darn. I digress again. The Dewey Decimal System was just like playing Hot and Cold. You read the spine of the books, which were arranged in heavily-decimaled, semi-numerical order; and headed in the direction of the Locator Number according to the Card Catalog. And finally you empty spot where your book should have been because your friend Jane had checked it out even though SHE WAS NOT WRITING A REPORT ON ULYSSES S. GRANT! The lady in the cardigan told you that Jane had the book for two more weeks, which pretty much meant that you were screwed unless Jane would let you borrow it one night.

I'm pretty sure that, because of privacy issues, librarians are not allowed to tell you that your friend Jane has the book these days.

So it is a good thing that we have book stores.

Book stores emerged just after the Vietnam War. They were places to partake of poetry readings; and, frequently, tofu and brown rice. You could sit, crosslegged, in an aisle, devouring an Indonesian backpacking guide that you hadn't paid for and had no intention of paying for and no one would blink. Because, eventually you were going to get hungry and have a plate of tofu and brown rice. If you did find the need to purchase a tome, you would find, upon arriving home, that it had a distinct aura of incense - or possibly patchouli - about it.

Oh, the era of the Independent BookSeller. Heaven. Nirvana. But, something was missing...oh, yeah. Profits.

Fast Forward 30 years:

No bookstore visit is complete without Starbucks. I'm not complaining.

There is this RADICAL, NEW, method of organizing volumes. Alphabetically, by subject. No white writing on spines, no Card Catalogs. No liability if we drop drawers on our toes. But...

And this is radical, also...books are not arranged spine-out. They are often placed cover-out. Because. A Cute Orange-and-White Kitty Named "Dewey" stares at us, and a couple of copies end up in our basket. And we see the front of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and we loved that book, and it would be fun to read it again. And look at all those cookbooks featuring big, smiley photos of Rachael Ray - my mother-in -law just adores her. Better grab a few.

Get out! A display of Ghirardelli Chocolates??? I love book stores. Maybe I'd better get the Nancy Drew Complete Collection. That GrandDaughter will be eight in no time...

I wonder whatever happened to the Cardigan Lady?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lordy, Lordy; How Time Flies When You Have a New GrandDaughter. And Someone You Love Gives You a Kitten.

So, yeah; it's been a while. A looooong while. But I've been so busy with the GrandDaughter. Shoppingholdingshoppingcrochetingshoppingsewingshoppingetc. And shopping! This GrandDaughter has the dubious distinction of being the first female born into hubby's family in nearly a century; so there ARE no hand-me-downs (as if she would be allowed to wear them.) Which means, of course, that Mema, Nanny, Grandma, Siti, Nona, All the Aunties, and Twenty-Or-So-Of-My-Best-Friends have purchased at least two of every cute outfit available in retail shops, outlet stores, and on line. And her parents spend most of their waking hours changing her clothes and taking pictures, so that everyone gets to see how cute she is in the cute outfits they bought. (My pragmatic and insufferably-designerized, dressed-to-impress friend Penelope is teaching her to say "wardrobe allowance", so she's prepared; should the flow of cute clothing ever ebb.)

Which brings me to the kitten.

The day the GrandDaughter ("GD") came home from the hospital with her Proud Parents ("PPs") was gloriously perfect to test-drive the new jogging stroller. The PPs dressed GD in many layers of cuteness, because it was a tad cool; and also because it was an opportunity to photograph GD in several of her cute outfits. GD was ceremoniously escorted outdoors, and placed in her shiny new chariot. Where she immediately pooped. Unruffled, the PPs reacted as naturally as Jon and Kate (Plus Eight)...they returned to the nursery, to dress and photograph GD in more size-0-to-3-month layers; which she would likely outgrow before dinner. And headed back out to the jogging stroller. Which was now inhabited by

A kitten.

The day you bring a baby home from the hospital is probably not a good day to adopt a kitten, so what do you do? The logical solution, of course, is to call your mother.

"Uh, Mom? There's a kitten in the front yard. What should we do?"

Well, so much for my plans to go baby shopping.

They crated the kitten. I set out to fetch it, looking for "Lost Cat" signs along the way; and they went for a walk. No one was home when I got there; I couldn't blame them. When you give someone the "opportunity" to rescue a kitten from your front yard you are probably giving them the "opportunity" to have and to hold (and to feed and to vet and to clean up after) that kitten until death do you part. And if the person to whom you are granting this "opportunity" already has five cats, it is best to be gone when the kitten is retrieved.

On to the vet, checking every telephone pole along the way for a "Lost Cat" sign. I would have been in luck if I wanted to earn $10,000 a month working at home, or if I wanted to lose 40 pounds in two weeks or I needed a queen-sized, nearly new mattress. But, no lost cats. The foster kitty wailed and howled the whole ride. Or maybe it was singing along with the radio.

As we checked in, the receptionist asked me his name. "He's a foster cat. I hope to find him a good home. Has anyone called you looking for a lost kitten?" She didn't respond. Just filled out the chart with my last name, and "Foster" in the space for "Pet's Name".

In the exam room, I finally got a look at my charge, a stringy teenage boy. Mostly white, but with an incongruous Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Kitty gray striped tail. He stopped howling when I let him out of the box; and wandered around the room inspecting things. And...this is the only way I can describe his vocalizations...muttering to himself. He jumped into the sink, and pushed a handle enough to make the water drip. Splashed. Tried to extract a paper towel from the holder. Swatted at the foot pedal on the trash can. Opened the gate to his crate and went in. Out. InOut. Stuck a paw under the exam room door. Mumbling.

Enter, the Vet. She scooped him up, with a cheerful, "Hello Foster!" No, no, I protested. A foster kitty. No caps, not a name. "I just love that name, Foster! So distinguished! Perfect for your handsome young man!" She was beaming as she set him on the table. I gave up. Pronounced in fine health, foster kitty set about amusing himself while we discussed the removal of, um, problematic parts of his anatomy. He continued to mutter, as he opened a cabinet and attempted a drawer. His doc was quite pleased to note this "talking" behavior, hallmark of the Siamese, her favorite kind of cat (although she didn't need another, thank you very much.) She also commented on his "busy-ness" in unfamiliar territory. Using words like "self-assured", "assertive" and "bright."

Those are not necessarily positive attributes in teenage kittens.

Foster, in fact, is a geek.

No button goes un-pushed. No flashing light flashes for naught. He turns off the automatic litter box. He turns the printer on, and prints copies of the screen saver. Lots of copies. He understands the mechanism of flushing; fortunately he doesn't yet have the strength for it. But, based on the amount of food consumed and his rapidly expanding frame, I'm sure it won't be long. And last night, when the smoke detector went off (scaring the fool out of me and interrupting a really good dream about being at a nice warm beach) I scrambled to gather cowering animals and lead them to safety; finding Foster easily. He was on top of the kitchen cabinets, pushing the smoke alarm test button.

Anyone need a self-assured, assertive, not to mention bright, kitten? I'll even throw in some free smoke alarm batteries.